New Films: No way home

NO WAY HOME Director: Buddy Giovinazzo. Starring: Tim Roth, Deborah Kara Unger (18)
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No Way Home is a storm in a beer-can - but what a storm. Perhaps it's impressive and startling because it promises nothing. More likely, it's the rawness and danger that get to you. Buddy Giovinazzo shoots the picture in a simple, economical style, which nicely offsets the tempestuous emotions woven into the story. His restraint behind the camera almost makes up for his script, which has been knocked together from old disused plot-points picked up at the screenwriter's junk-yard.

There's the slow-witted thug, Joey (Tim Roth), just out of prison and hoping for a break; his vicious older brother, Tommy (James Russo), who may have committed the murder which got Joey sent down; and Tommy's wife Lorrain (Deborah Kara Unger), who spends her nights stripping, and her days dreaming of a better life, two pursuits which figure in the DNA of every white-trash movie heroine worth her salt. Throw in some sexual tension, sibling rivalry, a gang of thugs out for Tommy's blood and you've got a formula that screams "go straight to video, do not pass go".

And yet the film really pulses. It has a subdued tone and sudden sparks of passion which catch you offguard. The characters have been given plenty of room to breathe on screen by Giovinazzo, almost as if he recognised how his own script had constricted them. He works with stark lighting, which gives the sets and cast the same ugly, morbid allure, and he's excellent with detail - every inch of Tommy's house is achingly authentic, from the fridge door obscured by novelty magnets to the mantelpiece where crucifixes fight for space with beer bottles.

This precision extends to the performances. The feline Deborah Kara Unger switches from weary cynic to playful flirt with the twitch of an eyebrow. And Tim Roth completely transforms himself as Joey, hunching his shoulders to disguise all traces of neck, and becoming more commanding the more he retreats into himself. The mixture of realism and hysteria eventually overwhelms No Way Home, but for the most part, you're seduced by that very combination - it's as though a family of Mike Leigh characters has suddenly wandered into the middle of a Tennessee Williams play.